Tag Archive for: Education


COVID and School Closures: Bringing Mental Health to the Forefront

[Note: COVID-related school closures have meant many children around the world have been thrust prematurely into child labor. In many cases, the closures have also meant children have lost access to resources like free or subsidized meals and mental health services.]

By Jonathan Todres, Georgia State University

Jonathan Todres

October 10th marks World Mental Health Day. Although international days typically do not get much coverage in the United States, World Mental Health Day deserves attention this year due to the significant impact of COVID-19.

In the United States, the epicenter of the pandemic, COVID-19 related job losses, looming evictions, school closures, social isolation, and related issues have spurred stress, anxiety, depression, and other adverse mental health consequences.

The mental and behavioral health consequences have been particularly significant for single-parent families and families with young children. More broadly, evidence suggests that the pandemic is causing an increase in the number of children with mental health issues and worsening children’s existing mental health issues. In addition, COVID-19 related school closings have disrupted children’s access to mental health services. As reported in JAMA Pediatrics, “[A]mong adolescents who received any mental health services during 2012 to 2015, 35% received their mental health services exclusively from school settings.”

The short- and long-term mental health consequences of the pandemic are profound. Although the CARES Act included some funding for mental health services, the second round of stimulus is bogged down in political fighting while children and families continue to suffer. The delays in meeting children’s mental health needs could alter children’s life trajectories.

The occasion of World Mental Health Day highlights three critical shortcomings in the United States. First, we continue to overlook children. Instead of focusing on the safe reopening of schools—and children’s educational, social, and emotional wellbeing—many states have prioritized reopening bars and restaurants. Second, mental health continues to be largely ignored, which tragically is not a new problem in the US. And third, the failure of the U.S. government to embrace children’s rights, and human rights mandates more broadly, leaves children and families at a disadvantage—having to rely on charity instead of being able to realize their inherent rights.

Progress on these issues ultimately will require a mindset shift and a recognition that children, mental health, and rights genuinely matter. That’s admittedly a long-term project, when most are focused on the election and events in the near term. But perhaps World Mental Health Day can help start (or rekindle) a dialogue on these underlying issues that are essential to improving the wellbeing of all individuals in the United States.

Jonathan Todres is a law professor at Georgia State University. He can be reached at www.jonathantodres.com.


A 14-Year-Old Mulls “The Price of Freedom” and Decides to Engage in the Battle to End Child Labor

By Nikeeta Singh

Nikeeta Singh is a 14-year-old student in New Delhi, India.


It is said that childhood is the best gift given to us by God. Everything is different when you’re a child: the trees are higher, the colours are more vivid than ever, and every new day is a new opportunity.

However, childhood is not the same for all. For some it is waking up at six in the morning and working till the sun sets; it is staying away from your parents to earn minimum wages; it is working in inhumane environments in hopes of a brighter future. This is the reality of child labour.

Nikeeta Singh

Child labour is experienced by every one in ten children around the globe. At the age when children should worry about their marks they are worrying about their health and economic status. But how can we blame these innocent angels? Uneducated parents are one of the major sources that contribute to child labour. It is the children of poor and marginalized communities who are often trafficked and forced into labour. Parents of these children are either betrayed or lured into schemes due to their lack of awareness and poor socio-economic conditions, forcing them to send or sell their children for better livelihood options. Traffickers promise daily wages to parents of young children and transport them to big cities where they are often treated as commodities. Families in dire financial conditions are can be approached by traffickers with an offer to buy their children, and with no other escape from their pitiful conditions, parents comply.

One of the major effects of child labour on children is losing access to education. Every day, some 218 million children around the world go to work instead of school—152 million are trapped in child labour (work which harms their development). Education is the route out of poverty for many children. It gives them a chance to gain the knowledge and skills needed to improve their lives; however, many a times their education is treated as a luxury, not a necessity.

In India, there is a great need for convergence and implementation of comprehensive child protection mechanisms. Indian children are exposed to multiple vulnerabilities. With thousands of children still working in brick kilns, construction sites, and agricultural land, trafficking for the sake of forced child labour is widely prevalent. Apart from this, horrific stories emerge daily of girls as young as 9 years old being forced into the sex trade. Apart from this, children are also sold by their parents to work in factories and industries in toxic environments that are highly dangerous.

“If a child is denied education and forced to work instead, violence has been inflicted,” noted Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi. “If a child and its parents are denied opportunities for a promising tomorrow, violence has been inflicted. If a child reels under poverty, violence has been inflicted. If obstacles are laid in the path of a child, inhibiting her progress and development, violence has been inflicted.”

As evil of a sin child labour is, there have been many improvements. Organisations such as Child Rights and You (CRY), CHILDLINE India Foundation, Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation, the International Labour Organisation and numerous others have taken up the initiative to ensure that every child in the world is free, safe, healthy, receives quality education, and has the opportunity to realise their potential.

Today, as we speak 100 million children have fallen prey to child labour. The current COVID-19 pandemic can potentially increase the number and further aggravate the problem in regions where child labour has been more resistant to policy and programme measures. The level of global economic integration and the current crisis are likely to have a large and possibly lasting worldwide adverse socio-economic and financial impact.

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Why child labour cannot be forgotten during COVID-19

By Jacobus de Hoop, Eric Edmonds

This article originally appeared on UNICEF’s web site on May 14, 2020.

In just a matter of weeks, the COVID-19 outbreak has already had drastic consequences for children. Their access to education, food, and health services has been dramatically affected across the globe. The impact has been so marked, that the UN Secretary General has urged governments and donors to offset the immediate effects of the COVID-19 crisis on children.

In discussions of the pandemic to date, child labour (i.e. forms of work that are harmful to children) has played only a marginal role. Yet, as we describe in this blog, child labour will be an important coping mechanism for poor households experiencing COVID-related shocks. As global poverty rises, so too will the prevalence of child labour. Increased parental mortality due to COVID-19 will force children into child labour, including the worst forms such as work that harms the health and safety of children. Temporary school closures may have permanent implications for the poorest and most vulnerable. Limited budgets and reductions in services for families and children will compound the effects of the health, economic, and social crisis.

We expect millions of children to become child labourers due to a rise in global poverty alone.

Even in the highly improbable scenario of a short-lived economic crisis, the consequences of this increase in child labour can last generations. We know that children who enter child labour are unlikely to stop working if their economic situation improves. Instead, they will continue to experience the implications of child labour—like less education overall and worse employment opportunities—when they are adults and start families of their own. We also know that the younger children are when they start working, the more likely they will experience chronic health issues as adults. Moreover, we have ample evidence that stress and trauma in adolescence lead to a lifetime of mental health challenges.

How parental health affects child labour

Without plausible forecasts on the extent of morbidity and mortality globally, it is impossible to gauge the rise in child labour as a direct result of the health consequences of COVID-19. However, we do know that as parents and caregivers in poor countries fall sick or die, children will take over part of their roles, including domestic work and earning responsibilities, as seen previously in MaliMexico, and Tanzania. When desperation sets in, children can be especially vulnerable. One study from Nepal found that paternal disability or death was among the strongest observable predictors of engagement in the worst forms of child labour.

Curbing the consequences of school closures

There is ample reason to be concerned that the temporary disruption of schooling will have permanent effects especially for the poorest. Normally, when children stop going to school and start earning an independent income, it is extremely difficult to get them to go back to school. A study of teacher strikes in Argentina, for instance, found that even temporary school closures can result in permanently lower schooling and reduced labour earnings into adulthood as children who leave school early enter low-skill occupations.

However, it may be possible to curb the consequences of school closure. The global shutdown may limit the ability of children to start earning while they are out of school, potentially mitigating the chance that children will not go back to school. Moreover, the re-opening of schools can cause excitement for both students and their parents. Such excitement was widely reported in the aftermath of school closures due to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. A World Vision report from 2015 quoted an 11 year-old in Sierra Leone: “When school finally reopened on April 14, it was the best day of my life.” Indeed, in Sierra Leone children had largely returned to class by the end of the Ebola epidemic.

© UNICEF/UN0153927/Feyizoglu;Ibrahim (13) is a seasonal agricultural child worker from Sanliurfa, Turkey.

As extreme poverty increases, so too will child labour

The economic downturn brought on by COVID is widely expected to lead to an increase in global poverty. One World Bank model forecasts a rise of 40 to 60 million people living in extreme poverty this year alone. A UNU-WIDER study estimates that a 5 percent contraction in per capita incomes will lead to an additional 80 million people living in extreme poverty. Child laborers are a large share of the global population living in extreme poverty. We expect millions of additional children to be pushed into child labour as a result of an increase in extreme poverty alone.

Social protection is crucial to address child labour

Social protection programmes directly addressing poverty are critical to offset the worst impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on child labour. At the time of writing, 133 countries were actively working on social protection responses, including non-contributory cash transfers. Generally, social protection programmes help lower child labour outside the household and help households offset economic shocks. In Colombia, cash transfers helped offset increases in child labour due to absence of the father. In Zambia, cash transfers helped households cushion the effect of weather shocks.

It seems inevitable that, in the medium term, most countries will experience serious fiscal crises. These crises will likely be especially severe in poor countries with a revenue basis depending disproportionately on international trade, foreign direct investment or foreign aid. We expect fiscal crises to further affect child labour through declining social protection.

Likewise, funding for other publicly provided goods—like health, education, and active labour market policies, and enforcement of labour market regulations—is likely to decline post-COVID-19. Each of these could have implications for child labour. Reductions in school fees, for example, have played a role in encouraging schooling, and there is evidence from India that the impact of negative economic shocks on child labour was muted in areas where schooling was more affordable. We also have evidence from Mexico and Senegal that child labour declines when school quality improves. If school fees increase or school quality deteriorates post-COVID-19, a further increase in child labour seems likely.

Moving forward

Affordable, gender-sensitive policy responses should be designed to help keep children in school and reduce reliance on child labour. Policy responses that risk exacerbating the looming increase in child labour, such as public works programmes, should be considered carefully. Particular attention should be paid to the period shortly after lockdowns when schools reopen. This will be a critical window to prevent children entering paid work and community-level action is needed to ensure that every child returns to school. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those who lose a parent deserve special consideration and support.


Jacobus de Hoop is manager of humanitarian policy research at UNICEF Innocenti. Eric Edmonds is Professor of Economics at Dartmouth College. His research aims to improve policy directed at child labour, forced labour, and human trafficking.


CLC Statement on “Malala Day,” July 12, 2013

WASHINGTON—The 30 members of the Child Labor Coalition (CLC) applaud the courage and commitment of education activist Malala Yousafzai who spoke to hundreds of young people gathered from over 80 nations for a Youth Session at the United Nations today. Malala, who just turned 16, was tragically shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan last fall because she dared to attend school and argued for the right of other Pakistani girls to do the same.

“We are all inspired by Malala’s amazing courage,” said Sally Greenberg, the co-chair of the CLC and the executive director of the National Consumers League. “Our coalition knows all too well that when children are not allowed to attend school, they often end up in work that is dangerous or damaging to their future development. Around the world, an estimated 61 million children are denied access to an education. At considerable risk, Malala is speaking out on behalf of those children.”

“Malala is a powerful reminder that education is not only the right of every child, but the greatest hope we have for a more just, prosperous, and peaceful world,” said Dr. Lorretta Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and a co-chair of the CLC. “We join her in calling for increasing educational opportunities for all children and encourage everyone to join the 4 million people who have signed a worldwide petition in support of universal access to education.”

Despite the catastrophic injuries suffered when she was attacked, Malala’s voice rang loud and clear at the UN and her message was firm: all children deserve an education. “Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons,” Malala said. “One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution.”

“[The Taliban] thought that the bullet would silence us, but they failed. Out of the silence came thousands of voices,” Malala added. “Nothing has changed in my life except this: weakness, fear, and hopelessness died, strength, fervor, and courage was born.”

Malala stated that the Taliban are “blasting schools every day” because “they are afraid of change, afraid of the equality that we will bring into our society.” She urged her audience to “wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism.”

During the speech, Malala made a specific connection to child labor: “In India, innocent and poor children are victims of child labor. Many schools have been destroyed in Nigeria. People in Afghanistan have been affected by the hurdles of extremism for decades. Young girls have to do domestic child labor and are forced to get married at an early age.”

The CLC welcomes this courageous young voice in the struggle against poverty, child labor, and barriers to education.

Malala’s speech may be viewed by clicking here.


Education-for-Girls Activist Malala Yousafzai Walks Out of the Hospital after Surviving an Assassination Attempt

The world is celebrating great news that came in with the New Year: 15-year-old education activist Malala Yousafzai walked out of a Birmingham, England hospital on January 4th, nearly three months after the Taliban shot her in the head and neck during an assassination attempt in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Malala spoke out on behalf of her generation of girls having access to education —a position that was in sharp variance with Taliban extremists who tried to silence her.

Malala’s recovery, although far from complete, is being hailed as a miracle and her resilience is being celebrated far and wide. Malala’s courage has touched many, including pop-star Madonna, who dedicated a song to the girl in the days after the attack. She appeared at a concert with Malala’s name in large letters across her back.

Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown cited Malala as a hero and visited Pakistan to press for open access to education. “Can Pakistan convert its momentary desire to speak out in support of Malala into a long term commitment to getting its three million girls and five million children into school?” asked Brown, who is currently serving as the United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education. Brown’s advocacy in support of Malala has led to calls to provide school access to all girls by 2015.

For more than two decades, the Child Labor Coalition has fought to protect children from the worst forms of child labor and Malala’s vision is central to that effort. “Access to education is one of the keys to reducing child labor—that’s what Malala is fighting for and that’s why her work has been so important,” noted CLC Co-Chair Sally Greenberg and the Executive Director of the National Consumers League. According to the Global Campaign for Education, 53 percent of out-of-school youth worldwide are girls, and millions of girls face discrimination, sexual and physical abuse, neglect, exploitation and violence.

In Pakistan, educational inequalities abound. The World Bank estimates that only 57 percent of girls and women can read and write, and in rural areas, only 22 percent of girls have completed primary-level schooling, compared with 47 percent of boys. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs, nearly one third of Pakistani children aged 5-14 are deprived of schooling, and the country is making “no advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor.” Inspired by Malala’s case, however, the government of Pakistan has signaled its desire to provide equal access to education.

“The right to education is fundamental, and we stand with Malala and all those around the world who are working with us to make sure all children have equal access to high-quality public education,” said American Federation of Teachers Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson, also a CLC co-chair, in the days following the attack.

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CHILD LABOR COALITION PRESS RELEASE: Child Labor Coalition decries shooting of 14-year-old education activist Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan

For immediate release: October 12, 2012
Contact: Reid Maki, (202) 207-2820, reidm@nclnet.org

Washington, DC—The 28 members of the Child Labor Coalition (CLC) today expressed their condemnation of the shooting attack on 14-year-old education activist Malala Yousafzai by Taliban forces on October 9 in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Malala dared to be an advocate for the education of girls, a stance that made her a target for Taliban extremists who shot her twice—in the head and the neck. She clung to life as the world celebrated the first United Nations International Day of the Girl Child on October 11.

“The idea that the Taliban would viciously attack a teenage girl to threaten other girls seeking an education is deplorable,” said American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson, a CLC co-chair. “The AFT condemns this cowardly act in the strongest of terms and applauds the people of Pakistan for rising up to proclaim that such barbarity is unacceptable in their country or anywhere in the world. The right to education is fundamental, and we stand with Malala and all those around the world who are working with us to make sure all children have equal access to high-quality public education.”

Malala’s advocacy began at age 11, when she blogged about Taliban atrocities in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. She soon began blogging about the closing of schools for girls, which were a result of ultraconservative views toward women’s roles in Pakistani society. According to published reports, she felt forced to hide her school books and feared for her life, knowing that her advocacy might make her a target of the Taliban. At age 11 she said, “All I want is an education. And I am afraid of no one.”

“Education is power, especially for girls. Malala knows this and has used her voice to advocate for others,” said Lily Eskelsen, Vice President of the National Education Association, a CLC member. “The Taliban underestimated Malala from the beginning, but her power has already been unleashed. They cannot call it back. An educated girl becomes an informed woman, able to make the best choices for her own well-being and that of her family; generations are impacted. As we mark the International Day of the Girl Child, Malala speaks to all of us to take action on our responsibility to see that girls’ human rights are respected.”

“Malala’s heroism and advocacy for girls inspires us all,” said CLC Co-Chair Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of the National Consumers League. “Access to education is one of the keys to reducing child labor—that’s what Malala is fighting for and that’s why her work has been so important. According to the International Labor Organization’s latest statistics, the number of girls in child labor worldwide fell between 2004 and 2008 from 103 million to 88 million. We need to keep that progress up. We need to keep Malala’s vision alive and provide girls with unfettered access to education.”

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Kenya’s Somali Refugees: Overcoming Cultural Obstacles to Girls’ Education in Dadaab

11 April 2012 [from the AllAfrica Web site]

Dadaab — A mix of cultural practices, such as early and forced marriage, as well as child labour, are depriving girls of education in the Dadaab refugee complex in eastern Kenya.

Out of Dadaab’s estimated population of 463,000 mainly Somali refugees, more than half are children under 18; of these about 38 percent attend school. The proportion of girls in the camps’ primary and secondary schools is 38 and 27 percent, respectively, according to the UN Refugee Agency. A third of girls aged between 5 and 13 in Dabaab go to school; for those aged 14 to 17, only one in 20 are enrolled.

Hawa Ahmed, who arrived in Dadaab about seven months ago with her six children, told IRIN that only her sons attend school.

Her two daughters stay at home cooking, washing utensils and fetching water. “[These are] already enough lessons as they learn how to keep a family,” said Hawa as she plaited her daughter’s hair.

While boys are generally encouraged to attend school, barriers to girls’ education remain. A local saying among Somalis in Dadaab, for example, is ‘Gabar ama gunti rageed ama god hakaga jirto’ (a girl should either be married or in the grave).

Halima, 19, was married off to an older man in 2011 forcing her to drop out of high school at Dadaab’s Ifo camp. The now divorced single mother of one, said: “I am very disappointed. My life is almost destroyed. I can no longer go back to school because I have to take care of my child; I [have] lost my pride.”

Many young girls at the camp are married off against their will to Somali men who come back from the USA and can afford to pay a huge dowry, according to officials.

Female genital mutilation/cutting and sexual and gender violence are also a problem, according to Faiza Dahir, an official with the gender and community development unit of NGO CARE.

A traditional Somali justice system known as ‘maslaha’ makes it difficult to trace the perpetrators of gender violence, “since they are protected under the traditional council, which solves all cases and withdraws complaints to the police.”


Meanwhile, aid agencies are coming up with incentive projects to help encourage girls to enrol at, and stay in, school.

The UN World Food Programme, for example, is providing tokens of half a kilogram of sugar to girls who attend 80 percent of classes every month. CARE is also supplying adolescent girls with sanitary pads to minimize drop-outs during menstruation.

Windle Trust Kenya is providing remedial and extra classes to girls in their final primary school year, while the African Development and Emergency Organization (ADEO) provides them with solar lamps.

Those who make it to school in the Ifo-2 and Kambioos extension camps (opened in 2011 to accommodate an influx of Somali refugees fleeing hunger and violence) face congested classrooms with limited facilities, with some forced to sit on the ground due to a lack of desks.

“We have struggled to solicit a learning space for the children and immediately established some primary schools in the Ifo extension camp to accommodate as many children as possible,” Fanuel Rendiki, ADEO’s education coordinator in Ifo camp, told IRIN.

Aid agencies such as CARE and Save the Children have also started an accelerated learning programme to train the refugees in basic numeracy and literacy.

The refugee youth umbrella organization is also helping to provide stationery. “We have distributed over 2,500 exercise books to children in Kambioos; we are also planning to do the same in Ifo-2,” Aden Tarah, a member of the youth committee, told IRIN.

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


New York Times: Itinerant Life Weighs on Farmworkers’ Children

March 12, 2011

SALINAS, Calif. — A girl in Oscar Ramos’s third-grade class has trouble doing homework because six relatives have moved into her family’s rusted trailer and she has no private space.
A boy has worn his school uniform for two weeks straight because his parents are busy with harvest season.
And while Mr. Ramos patiently explains the intricacies of fractions, he is attuned to the student who confides, “Teacher, on Saturday the cops came and took my brother.”
“I know you still love your brother,” Mr. Ramos gently told him. “But let’s talk about your vision for your future.”
In the clattering energy of Room 21 at Sherwood Elementary here, Mr. Ramos, 37, glimpses life beneath the field dust. His students are the sons and daughters of the seasonal farmworkers who toil in the vast fields of the Salinas Valley, cutting spinach and broccoli and packing romaine lettuce from a wet conveyor belt: nearly 13 heads a minute, 768 heads an hour, 10 hours a day.
One-third of the children are migrants whose parents follow the lettuce from November to April, Salinas to Yuma, Ariz. Some who leave will not return.
“Dear Mr. Ramos,” they write, from Arizona or Oregon, “I hope you will remember me. …” Mr. Ramos, the child of migrants himself, always does.
Schools like Sherwood, and teachers like Mr. Ramos, are on the front lines, struggling against family mobility, neighborhood violence and the “pobrecito,” or “poor little thing,” mentality of low academic expectations. But the often disrupted lives of the children of migrants here is likely to grow still more complicated as the national debate over immigration grows sharper.
Efforts by lawmakers to rescind automatic citizenship for children born in the United States to illegal immigrants are already stoking fears among many agricultural workers, and that has consequences for their children. Some parents, as they move with the crops, are already keeping their children out of school when they get to Arizona because they are worried about the bureaucracy and tougher restrictions in the state.
Despite the resilience of their young charges, educators at Sherwood face a catalog of need: 97 percent of students are near the poverty line, compared with 56 percent statewide. Seventy-seven percent have limited English, versus 32 percent throughout California. Only 6 percent of parents here attended college — the state average is 55 percent — and many are illiterate in their native language.
Though there has been progress, Sherwood hovers near the bottom of the state’s performance index, along with more than 100 California elementary schools with a similar demographic, many in the agricultural strongholds of the San Joaquin and Salinas Valleys.
Even as Latino enrollments grow, the number of new teachers earning bilingual credentials has fallen in the last decade to 1,147 per year from 1,829, according to the California Teacher Commission. The shortage of bilingual teachers is hurting Latino academic achievement, said Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. Teachers like Mr. Ramos, “who have both language skills and the framework to respond to these kids’ cultural assets,” Professor Fuller said, are all too rare.
Mr. Ramos, one of eight children, grew up following the lettuce, too. Home was a farm labor camp near Salinas, and he has traveled far. The camps — a setting forJohn Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” — were the subject of his undergraduate thesis at the University of California, Berkeley.
In his classroom, he has built an altar of sorts: a collection of Berkeley memorabilia, crowned with the inspiring message “Class of 2024.” But even for the most determined students here, poverty and college often do not mix.
The challenges for children in East Salinas, known as Alisal, have deep roots: during the Depression, thousands of Dust Bowl migrants packed into tiny shacks. Today, Sherwood sits on a fault line of violence between the Hebbron Heights Surenos (blue) and the Fremont Street Nortenos (red) street gangs; a first grader was wounded by gunfire last year hiding behind a play structure. Students must dress in black and white to avoid gang colors.
Bruce Becker, Sherwood’s violence prevention specialist, counsels students who sleep beneath carports and live in such cramped quarters that their parents take them to the local truck stop to wash up before school. Jose Gil, a high school teacher who has started an after-school basketball academy, said many of his students did not see much of their parents during harvest season.
“They have little brothers and sisters to take care of, maybe cook for,” he said. “Yet they’re supposed to turn in a 10-page paper by tomorrow? I mean, it’s unreal.”
Recent crackdowns at the border have meant longer family separations. “My mom’s in Mexico with my little baby sister,” says one girl in Mr. Ramos’s class, a frequent hand-waver. “Every day she calls me, but some days she forgets.”
Mr. Ramos’s approachable style contrasts with the tumult in his students’ young lives. He firmly discusses rules and respect for others with a boy who misbehaves at recess, but takes him aside to talk about superheroes and Mexican soccer, two affinities they share. And in time he learns that his student was worried about his father, who has been deported. Talking with another boy whose father and brothers were jailed for gang activities, Mr. Ramos suggests that he does not need to follow the same path. They discuss the boy’s goal of joining the Marines.
“He wanted to get away,” Mr. Ramos said. “He didn’t want to spend his life in Salinas.”
Like those of many Sherwood parents, the life stories of Benjamin Soto, 51, and his wife, Oliva Resenaiz, 38, are told in their hands.
Mr. Soto completed sixth grade in Mexico; his wife stopped with fifth. The family lives in a landlord’s afterthought of a house down a dirt drive. A garden brimming with vegetables and a homemade swing beneath the avocado tree perk up the modest home. Though Oscar Soto does his homework on a plastic storage bin, he is one of Mr. Ramos’s most gifted students, able to solve complex math problems in his head.
When Mr. Soto wants to encourage his son to work harder in Mr. Ramos’s class, he displays his hands, thick with calluses, his thumb and forefinger permanently crooked from years of gripping a field knife.
“It shows him what a hard life he’d have,” Mr. Soto said.
Rocia Picazo, whose daughter Sara is in Mr. Ramos’s class, leaves at 5 a.m. to pack romaine. Her face is barely visible beneath the protective gear that shields her from the chlorine used to sanitize lettuce.
She was shocked to learn that Sara’s teacher had labored in the fields, picking chilies, walnuts, apricots and lettuce. “I see his face and his hands, and I never imagined he’d do that kind of work,” Mrs. Picazo said.
The $394 million federal Migrant Education Program, created in the 1960s, provides health care, summer school and tutoring for migrant children. Still, nearly half do not complete high school. California has about 200,000 children in the program, one-third of the national total.
Sherwood’s migrant student population dropped 10 percent last year, in part because other crops are providing year-round employment. In addition, said Rosa E. Coronado, the migrant education director for Monterey County, “Parents are getting the message that it’s not beneficial for the children to move around so much.”
One boy in Mr. Ramos’s class did not attend school for five months. He spent his time on PlayStation. This year, his father will move for work. But his mother is staying in Salinas, worried, she said, that “my son is falling behind.”
Families may also be more hesitant to uproot because of the immigration climate. Measures proposed in Arizona recently would deny education to illegal immigrants and require proof of citizenship to enroll in public and private school. The Supreme Court has ruled that every child is entitled to a public education.
Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, who introduced a bill to repeal “birthright” citizenship, said that conferring automatic citizenship and educating children of people who are here illegally is a “misapplication” of the 14th Amendment.
“I don’t think lawbreakers should be rewarded,” said Mr. King, the vice chairman of the House immigration subcommittee.
For families in East Salinas, disparities in opportunity come down to education. Terri Dye, the principal of Sherwood Elementary, said the trick was “understanding where the students come from but also having high expectations.”
And so at 6:45 a.m., Mr. Ramos can be found stapling “Student of the Month” notices to the class bulletin board.
There are signs of progress in Room 21: last year, 13 students moved up a level in math, surpassing the state average. During reading vocabulary exercises, hands are raised often, accompanied by exuberant shouts of “Mr. Ramos, I’ve got it!”
Outside the classroom one recent morning, Melissa Aledo described a change she had noticed in her son, Paul Gray.


ASSE Rolls Out Its New Target Teen Work Safety Tools Aimed At Preventing Work Injuries, Illnesses

[from www.safetyonline.com]

March 3, 2011

American Society of Safety Engineers roll out new target teen safety kit aimed at preventing youth work injuries, illnesses

Des Plaines, IL – Slippery floors, hot cooking equipment, heavy lifting, loud noises and working alone are some of the dangers teens face as they experience a first job or seasonal employment. If not aware of the risk and properly trained and protected, these dangers can lead to serious injuries or fatalities for teen workers. To help teens stay safe at work, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) has developed a new, comprehensive “Target Teen Work Safety” electronic tool kit (www.asse.org/teensafety) it is rolling out this month to ASSE chapters. Read more


For migrant students, a cycle of dwindling opportunities

To read this article at the Washington Post, please click here.

By Kevin Sieff
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 6, 2010; 8:48 PM

In her purple school binder, 13-year-old Ellifina Jean counted down the last days of the apple harvest, crossing off one box every afternoon, bringing her closer to a big smiley face and the words, scrawled in all caps: “DADDY’S LAST DAY OF WORK!”

Ellifina and her family were preparing to leave Virginia’s Winchester area apple orchards for Florida’s orange groves before heading north again, toward New Jersey, in search of blueberries. For Ellifina, each season brings a new school and a new list of courses that bears little resemblance to the last.

Such relentless mobility challenges the schools charged with educating the nation’s 475,000 migrant students. Many never start school, and in Virginia one-third fail to graduate on time. Migrant students trail others in performance on the state’s reading and math tests. That poses a major challenge for schools because federal law has set a goal for all students to pass those tests by 2014.

The stakes are even higher for the students themselves. “If these kids don’t settle in one place by high school, graduation is basically an impossibility,” said Katy Pitcock, who worked for Winchester’s migrant education program for 25 years, until 2004.

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